What do you get when you cross mobility with cloud computing?
As a small business owner, you likely have one or more employees who bring their smartphone or mobile device to work. In today’s world, employees often use these multi-functional devices for more than simply reminding a spouse to pick up milk on the way home from work.
While free or inexpensive apps such as Evernote, Skype, Google Docs, Dropbox, and Box may make their own jobs easier, Bring Your Own Applications (BYOA) activities may expose your business documents and practices to unauthorized eyes, putting confidential client data at risk.
Not to be confused with bring your own device BYOD (think of the device as the possible vehicle for the app) BYOA refers to cloud-based applications that may be used on a desktop, laptop, or mobile device.
Almost 70 percent of small and medium businesses (SMBs) report active use of employee-introduced applications according to a December 2012 study by LogMeIn, based on the responses of over 1200 businesses in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
The same study found that 43 percent of the IT pros in these businesses were worried about their lack of control over employee usage of the apps, while also predicting their company policies would be expanded to address the use of them within the next five years.
BYOA is not going away.
BYOA Impacts Everyone
BYOA can affect anyone who carries a smartphone, tablet, or laptop between home and work, or who can access a web browser via laptop or desktop at work. Mobile apps are used by everyone from receptionists (Evernote) to salespeople (Salesforce).
Employees use their own apps because either your business doesn’t have an app or service to provide the tools they want, the employee doesn’t know you have the service, the BYOA is faster/easier to use, or the employee likes it better than the one you do have.
How Your Employees Use BYOA
People use their own apps to make their jobs easier, save time, and reduce work. In some cases, an employee may use an app for a personal project, like using Evernote to arrange a home reno project, and think “hey, this would really help organize my projects at work.” So they download it at work. Perhaps they are looking for a way to manage large amounts of data, or collaborate with other employees in other locations.
People who invest their time learning how to use an app become comfortable with it, and don’t want to give it up.
Why You Should be Concerned
There are thousands of apps literally at your fingertips, and while they may improve productivity in the workplace, there are some serious potential issues business owners should know of. Viruses may be transferred between home and work computers, sensitive information may fall into the wrong hands, and your data may be more easily compromised when stored on third party servers.
How Do Business Owners Address BYOA?
Here are a few options for business owners concerned about the security risks BYOA may pose.
- Provide alternate services, custom applications, or sponsored SaaS programs for staff
- Develop a detailed tech policy and procedures document and review it with your team regularly
- Simplify security with single sign on- like Centrify.
- Provide cell phones or mobile devices for employees. For example the Samsung Knox comes with Centrify installed. Position this as a perk for employees who can use also use it for personal use.
- Get your HR department (or at least put on your HR cap) and have your employees sign a mobile/cloud/communications annual statement of use to comply with your tech policy and agree to not use unapproved cloud storage, file sharing or collaboration apps.
- Offer safe alternative and help employees get set up.
Remember, most people want to do a good job, and as a business owner you want to give your staff the tools to be productive while safeguarding your sensitive data and that of your customers. Take charge, lead the initiative. After all, it IS your business.
Looking for ways to combat BYOA and BYOD? Read this post I wrote for Capital One Spark Business IQ. BYOD and BYOA: 5 Ways to Manage the Risk to Your Business includes actionable tips for small business owners, as well as interviews with Christopher Corde of LogMeIn and Vikas Bhatia of Kalki Consulting.